First it was bars; then it was restaurants. Now California is looking to enacting anti-smoking legislation that would restrict smoking in the privacy of home — if that home shares walls or a ventilation unit with someone else's home.  If it passes, California's new statewide anti-smoking ban would be the most sweeping smoke-free legislation in the country.

According to the new bill, people living in townhouses, condominiums, apartments and other multiunit homes would be prohibited from smoking indoors. Single-family detached homes would not be included in the new legislation as they don't share walls or ventilation systems. The new rules would allow smoking only in designated areas at least 20 feet away from housing units.

Why the fuss over smoking at home? Anti-smoking advocates point the finger at the secondhand smoke that seeps through the walls and is carried through ventilation systems of apartment buildings and townhouses. If you can smell tobacco smoke from your neighbor's apartment, chances are, you are also breathing in the carcinogens from the cigarette. And according to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no acceptable level of contact when it comes to secondhand smoke.

As you might expect, smokers' rights advocates and some tenants' rights groups oppose the bill, complaining that it unfairly discriminates against those who can't afford a single-family home. But that line of thinking could be used to support the legislation as well. Just because a person cannot afford a house, does that mean he should be subjected to his neighbors' cigarette smoke? According to Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael, who introduced the legislation, about a third of Californians live in multi-unit complexes.

To date, about 40 California cities and counties have implemented their own legislation banning smoking in multi-unit buildings. The new legislation would take things one step further by extending the ban statewide.  

Do you think California should ban smoking in multi-unit housing?

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